Writing for me has always been a release for daydreaming. Daydreams take on concrete forms of being when I write them down as stories. I have tons of stories that swim round my head, and have finally accepted that they’re just going to have to come out. I really don’t care in what format, just that these ideas and visions have an outlet. I can’t stand more than one voice [aside from my own] dropping thoughts inside my brain for longer than a week or two. So out it comes.
On that note, I have had this story idea for quite a few years, and have been working and playing around with it for the past couple of years… “working” in so far as I am making progress in stitching scenes together to flow as a narrative, as my earliest workings for this story were always only little poetic blurbs here and there. The vision of the entire story is hard to cut into words that flow in a linear fashion.
So along with my experimentation with what will probably turn into my very first novel, I have been reading anything I can get my virtual hands on related to crafting fiction.
One of these resources [Chuck Wendig’s list of ways to plan and prep your story] suggests the writer “let the characters talk, and nothing else”. This is the exercise (profanity ahead, be forewarned):
Let the characters talk, and nothing else. Put those squirrely fuckers in a room, lock the door, and let the story unfold. It won’t stay that way, of course. You’ll need to add… well, all the meat to the bones. But it’s a good way to put the characters forward and find their voice and discover their stories. Remember: dialogue reads fast and so it tends to write fast, too. Dialogue is like Astroglide: it lubricates the tale.” ~Chuck Wendig
This exercise provokes thoughts like “what would the conversation be like” “would they argue, would they debate, would they scheme or plan together” etc. So I followed this format exercise for my 2 main characters, both of which had previously failed to pull my heartstrings in earlier writings. This dialogue exercise was perfect. It made me look at facets of these characters that I didn’t even know were there, and really tune into what they both want [their goals] and what they fear will happen if they don’t get it in this story… As well as the underlying desperation of it all.
The important aspect of this exercise is getting to know your characters [and getting them connected to each other] through their dialogue alone. There is no descriptor narration, no backstories, no outside plot narrations, just the characters’ dialogue to serve as the window view into their world. Through their words/dialogue, I can now hear their voices. I can hear dialect and inflection and tone, and I can hear the emotion in their voices now that I couldn’t hear before.
I found this so eye-opening that I really don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier. Just this little snippet of conversation has helped cement the main plot/conflict and story arc in my head that I feel a little more confident in its telling now.
I highly recommend doing this with your characters. It could even be applied to your main protagonist and antagonist having it out in conversation. Let them get to know each other. Afterward, they should be able to form clearer distinctions between their actions, goals, and how they view one another and their conflict.